When 209 Sapper William Cridland enlisted in 1914 , it is likely he was unaware of his ancestral history. William was a convict descendant, today considered Australian royalty, and when he enlisted with the Engineers in the AIF he was certainly unaware of his future place in Australian history… as a legendary ANZAC.
Considerable distinctions for a young man by today’s standards. But William was a modest man and would not have cared much for titles and labels. However as his life continued to take many turns, he would add one more distinction, the title of MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) , a well deserved Royal Honour for his outstanding civil service after the war.
William Charles Hall Cridland was a great Australian, a man who after the war dedicated much of his life to preserving the memory of the men who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and the future welfare of the returned soldiers. Ironically his own story and memory has faded with time, but is now reignited and now retold for generations of Australian’s to remember this extraordinary man.
At Gallipoli on landing day he had witnessed fellow sappers and soldiers die and a few weeks later had to bury his close friend 54 Henry Fairnham. He also had to watch helplessly as young 21 Len Gatty lay motionless in no- mans land during the battle of Lone Pine. William lost another close mate and would later take special care to let Len’s people back home know of the circumstances that led to Len’s brave sacrifice.
The compassion and deep feeling for his fellow soldiers during Gallipoli no doubt laid the foundation for the path he would later follow and his dedicated civil service after the war.
In 1930 William would later give his account of the landing on Gallipoli and described having the honour of being one of the first to land on the shore.
The Landing: First Clash with Turks
(By William Cridland, 1st Field Coy. Engrs., A.I.F., and President, T.B. Soldiers’ Association.)
“How many pause to give thought to that gallant band who landed on the shores of the Aegean Sea on April 25, 1915, placing Australia in such high esteem throughout the world?
The transports and convoys of the Anzac Armada concentrated at Albany, whence they sailed on November 1, 1914, and the troops were landed in Egypt early in December.
All troops were assembled at Lemnos, the advanced base, and on the evening of April 24 the assaulting units were taken on board transports and warships to the Gulf of Saros.
On arrival they were transshipped on to barges to be taken Inshore. A. and B. Company, of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Battalions were chosen as a covering party, and 20 sappers, N.C.O.’s and an officer each from Nos. 1, 2 and 3 sections of the 1st Field Coy. Engineers were chosen to go in as a demolition party with the covering party.
I had the honour of being one of the chosen of No. 1 section, and we had to go in with Aand B of the 9th Bn. My section and the 9th Bn. were very fortunate in that we went from Lemnos to the hopping off place in the H.M.S. Queen, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet.
All ranks aboard treated us with the usual British naval hospitality, and we were all able to get a decent sleep in bunks, and, on waking, a hot bath and a jolly good feed. Then, to cap all, the canteen was thrown open to us, and the sailors packed us with their issue of chocolate. In the early hours of the morning came the clear but low order to fall in. All lights were out, and the night was pitch black. Each man’s load was evened up as well as could be, so I’ll mention what I had – the usual full marching order, not forgetting rifle and bayonet, 250 rounds (the dinkum stuff, too), emergency rations, pick, shovel, wire-cutters, one dozen sand bags, and a case of gun cotton. How we managed to go down the rope ladders into the barges, then through the water and up the sandy beach, God alone knows, for I don’t, as each barge had its full complement.
At last all barges were ready, and we were taken in tow by steam pinnaces. The moon had disappeared prior to our leaving the Ship, but, looking back, we could see the black forms of the battleship following in our wake ready to cover our attack. Here we were at last launching out into the unknown, but it was a long-looked for event, after over eight months’ hard, rigorous training at home, on board ship, in Egypt, and at Lemnos.
However, our thoughts were suddenly checked by the report of a solitary rifle shot away up in the hills. Every man realised that the supreme moment had arrived, and presently Hell was let
loose, but so far there was only one side having a go. Full speed ahead raced the pinnace towing the barges, then, swinging clear, left us travelling inshore. Now, the little middies, standing erect, grim, determined and heroic, directed the barges, swinging them clear of one another. Lieut. Mather, realising that the barges afforded no protection from the murderous rain of lead from rifles, machine guns, and artillery, told us to go overboard and make the beach. His advice was promptly followed. We were, of necessity, compelled to gain what cover was offering, in order to take a spell, for, after struggling through about 40 yards of water and then up the beach with our load, we were somewhat blown. This, as near as I can remember, was in the vicinity of 0.420 o’clock. After a very short breather Col. Lee reminded us of the job on hand. Now was our turn, and, with fixed bayonets (not forgetting the one in the tunnel), we started off up the hill, dragging ourselves up with the assistance of the undergrowth in places. Eventually we gained the top, and became subjected to fire from all directions, and I think all our casualties there were caused by snipers and shrapnel. There were about seven of us in a group, and we decided to move with caution, for some of our own cobbers coming up behind could very easily take us for Turks, for we were more like ragged tramps than anything else.
Our decision proved a blessing, not only to ourselves, but to those coming up, for, lying hidden as we were, we began picking off the Turks – some at very close range, too. As our numbers increased we began to move forward, till a messenger came up with an order that all engineers had to report back and commence the establishment of a line of defence, and cut steps up the cliff so that travelling would be made easier. It is difficult to remember the position of the job I had to carry out, that of cutting steps in the hill, but, as near as I can judge; it was that steep portion leading to Russell Top. Whilst engaged on this task, General Birdwood stood talking to me for a while, and was nearly sniped. On a later occasion he informed me that it was an occasion he would never forget.
From this job I went up the hill to assist in some trench running, and as soon as I got there a sniper got busy from across the gully; but he did not reign long, as one of our chaps sent him to Allah. That evening my section, in charge of Lieut. Mather, had a job of trench running somewhere up Shrapnel Gully, and, considering the incessant blaze of rifle and machine gun fire all night, it was a wonder that any of us were left.
When one considers the geographical formation of the country, it is amazing to think that we ever got a footing on the Peninsula at all. To some people the landing at Gallipoli is merely something that happened in the distant past, but to many it is the most sacred day of the year.
I know many who took part in the landing who travel hundreds of miles for the Memorial Service on Anzac Day, and then spend the rest of the day with their old unit cobbers.
That is the Anzac spirit, and it will last while ever there is an Anzac living.”
Source: W. Cridland, ‘The Landing: First Clash with Turks’, Reveille, Sydney, RSS&AILA, NSW Branch, 1930
No doubt one of William’s proudest day’s was the landing at Gallipoli, but nearly twenty years later as he stood atop the pediment of the newly built Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park on the 24th November 1934 , as President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association of NSW and a Trustee of the new memorial, he must have been even prouder with his post war achievements and being instrumental in preserving the memory of those who served in the war.
The Anzac Memorial was officially dedicated and opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester on 24 November 1934. The original wreath laid at the opening ceremony by the Duke of Gloucester is still displayed in the Memorial’s Hall of Memory.
The Memorial’s mission statement was:
• to maintain and conserve the ANZAC Memorial as the principal State War Memorial in New South Wales
• to preserve the memory of those who have served in war
• to collect, preserve, display and research military historical material and information relating to the New South Wales citizens who served their country in war or in peace keeping activities.
The Opening Ceremony
Photo by Sam Hood, Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales – ( William Cridland would have been present on top of the pediment with the Duke of Gloucester and other dignitaries in this photo)
The newspapers reported on this glorious day, and William had the proud honour of lunching and enjoying the spirit of the occasion in the Dukes presence and the honour of reciting the famous words from Laurence Binyon’s “Ode of Remembrance” before the toasts and speaches…….the following is an extract from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Monday 26 November 1934 describing the events of the day
SPIRIT OF ANZAC
150,000 See Duke Pay His Tribute
UNVEILING OF MEMORIAL
Formality Forsaken When Ex-Servicemen Entertain Duke at Lunch
In the presence of 150,000 persons the Duke of Gloucester .’in Sydney on Saturday unveiled the memorial to the men and women of New South Wales who served in the Great War.
Returned Men’s Luncheon
The Duke of Gloucester was entertained at luncheon in the Town Hall this after noon by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia (New South Wales branch), the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association, and the Limbless Soldiers’ Association. About 1000 persons attended, and the gathering was successful in every way. Free from formality, as gatherings of returned men generally are, his Royal Highness enjoyed to-day’s luncheon immensely, and the ex servicemen appreciated the spirit in which the Duke entered into the proceedings. The chair was occupied by the President of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A. (MIr. L. A. Robb, C.1M.G.). Before the toasts were to begin the President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association (Mr. W. Cridland) called on the gathering to stand in silence in memory of departed comrades. The silence was broken when Mr. Cridland recited the stirring lines of Binyon-
- “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
- Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
- At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
- We will remember them.”
On the 1st January 1936 William Charles Hall Cridland was awarded an MBE for his civil service, an award considered long overdue and voiced as such by the “Truth” newspaper when they predicted in December of 1935 that he was a certainty for a C.B.E………………
Those Whom the King Delights To Honor
THEIR NAMES WILL BE FEW
” ‘Truth’ names as a certainty for minor honors Mr. W. Cridland, president of the T.B. Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association. His activities have been so considerable and so successful, and he has been overlooked for so long that nothing short of a C.B.E. would seem to fill the bill.”
This is an original extract from William Cridland’s Biography which will be added to his own page soon.
Copyright© VanceKelly 2015